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A contact picker for the web

The Contact Picker API provides an easy way for users to share contacts from their contact list.

Updated
Pete LePage
Pete LePage

The Contact Picker API begins an origin trial in Chrome 77 (stable in September) as part of our capabilities project. We'll keep this post updated as the implementation progresses.

What is the Contact Picker API?

Access to the user's contacts has been a feature of native apps since (almost) the dawn of time. It's one of the most common feature requests I hear from web developers, and is often the key reason they build a native app.

The Contact Picker API is an on-demand API that allows users to select entries from their contact list and share limited details of the selected entries with a website. It allows users to share only what they want, when they want, and makes it easier for users to reach and connect with their friends and family.

For example, a web-based email client could use the Contact Picker API to select the recipient(s) of an email. A voice-over-IP app could look up which phone number to call. Or a social network could help a user discover which friends have already joined.

Caution: The Chrome team has put a lot of thought into the design and implementation of the Contact Picker API to ensure that the browser will only share exactly what people choose. See the Security and Privacy section below.

Current status

Step Status
1. Create explainer Complete
2. Create initial draft of specification In Progress
3. Gather feedback & iterate on design In progress
4. Origin trial Started in Chrome 77
Expected to run through Chrome 80.
5. Launch Not started

Using the Contact Picker API

The Contact Picker API requires a single API call with an options parameter that specifies the types of contact information you want.

Check out the Contact Picker API demo and view the source.

Enabling via chrome://flags

To experiment with the Contact Picker API locally, without an origin trial token, enable the #enable-experimental-web-platform-features flag in chrome://flags.

Enabling support during the origin trial phase

Starting in Chrome 77, the Contact Picker API is available as an origin trial on Chrome for Android.

Origin trials allow you to try new features and give feedback on their usability, practicality, and effectiveness to the web standards community. For more information, see the Origin Trials Guide for Web Developers. To sign up for this or another origin trial, visit the registration page.

  1. Request a token for your origin.
  2. Add the token to your pages. There are two ways to do that:
    • Add an origin-trial <meta> tag to the head of each page. For example, this may look something like:
      <meta http-equiv="origin-trial" content="TOKEN_GOES_HERE">
    • If you can configure your server, you can also add the token using an Origin-Trial HTTP header. The resulting response header should look something like:
      Origin-Trial: TOKEN_GOES_HERE

Feature detection

To check if the Contact Picker API is supported, use:

const supported = ('contacts' in navigator && 'ContactsManager' in window);

In addition, on Android, the Contact Picker requires Android M or later.

Opening the Contact Picker

The entry point to the Contact Picker API is navigator.contacts.select(). When called, it returns a promise and shows the contact picker, allowing the user to select the contact(s) they want to share with the site. After selecting what to share and clicking Done, the promise resolves with an array of contacts selected by the user.

When calling select() you must provide an array of properties you'd like returned as the first parameter, and optionally whether multiple contacts can be selected as a second parameter.

const props = ['name', 'email', 'tel'];
const opts = {multiple: true};

try {
const contacts = await navigator.contacts.select(props, opts);
handleResults(contacts);
} catch (ex) {
// Handle any errors here.
}

The Contacts Picker API can only be called from a secure, top-level browsing context, and like other powerful APIs, it requires a user gesture.

Handling the results

The Contact Picker API returns an array of contacts, and each contact includes an array of the requested properties. If a contact doesn't have data for the requested property, or the user chooses to opt-out of sharing a particular property, it returns an empty array.

For example, if a site requests name, email, and tel, and a user selects a single contact that has data in the name field, provides two phone numbers, but does not have an email address, the response returned will be:

[{
"email": [],
"name": ["Queen O'Hearts"],
"tel": ["+1-206-555-1000", "+1-206-555-1111"]
}]

Caution: Labels and other semantic information on contact fields are dropped.

Security and permissions

The Chrome team designed and implemented the Contact Picker API using the core principles defined in Controlling Access to Powerful Web Platform Features, including user control, transparency, and ergonomics. I'll explain each.

User control

Access to the users' contacts is via the picker, and it can only be called with a user gesture, on a secure, top-level browsing context. This ensures that a site can't show the picker on page load, or randomly show the picker without any context.

Screen shot, users can choose which properties to share.
Users can choose not to share some properties. In this screenshot, the user has unchecked the 'Phone numbers' button. Even though the site asked for phone numbers, they will not be shared with the site.

There's no option to bulk-select all contacts so that users are encouraged to select only the contacts that they need to share for that particular website. Users can also control which properties are shared with the site by toggling the property button at the top of the picker.

Transparency

To clarify which contact details are being shared, the picker always shows the contact's name and icon, plus any properties that the site has requested. For example, if a site requests name, email, and tel, all three properties will be shown in the picker. Alternatively, if a site only requests tel, the picker will show only the name, and telephone numbers.

Screen shot of picker for site requesting all properties.
Picker, site requesting name, email, and tel, one contact selected.
Screen shot of picker for site requesting only phone numbers.
Picker, site requesting only tel, one contact selected.
Screen shot of picker when a contact is long-pressed.
The result of a long press on a contact.

A long press on a contact will show all of the information that will be shared if the contact is selected. (See the Cheshire Cat contact image.)

No permission persistence

Access to contacts is on-demand, and not persisted. Each time a site wants access, it must call navigator.contacts.select() with a user gesture, and the user must individually choose the contact(s) they want to share with the site.

Feedback

The Web Platform Incubator Group and the Chrome team want to hear about your experiences with the Contact Picker API.

Tell us about the API design

Is there something about the API that doesn't work as expected? Or are there missing methods or properties that you need to implement your idea?

Problem with the implementation?

Did you find a bug with Chrome's implementation? Or is the implementation different from the spec?

  • File a bug at https://new.crbug.com. Be sure to include as much detail as you can, provide simple instructions for reproducing the bug, and set Components to Blink>Contacts. Glitch works great for sharing quick and easy repros.

Planning to use the API?

Are you planning to use the Contact Picker API? Your public support helps the Chrome team to prioritize features, and shows other browser vendors how critical it is to support them.

Helpful links

Thanks

Big shout out and thanks to Finnur Thorarinsson and Rayan Kanso who are implementing the feature and Peter Beverloo whose code I shamelessly stole and refactored for the demo.

PS: The 'names' in my contact picker, are characters from Alice in Wonderland.

Last updated: Improve article